Not for the first time, international outrage has followed the exploits of an American tourist hunting big game on African safaris. This July, authorities in Zimbabwe announced they were hunting down a U.S. hunter who allegedly paid $55,000 to illegally hunt down a famous lion and national icon in Zimbabwe. According to authorities, the lion was lured out of a protected national park, shot with a bow and arrow, tracked for 40 hours, shot again with a rifle, and then skinned and beheaded outside the park’s borders.
Cecil the lion has been described as the “star attraction at the Hwange national park,” and Zimbabwe police have already arrested two local men who facilitated the poaching. Park guides say Cecil’s six cubs will now die as well.
Although the suspect is from Minnesota, Zimbabwe authorities initially said they were looking for a Spanish hunter, causing outrage in the European country.
“From 2007 to 2012 Spain was the country that imported the most lion trophies from South Africa,” said Luis Muñoz, spokesman for Spanish conservation group Chelui4lions. “During this period it imported 450 heads, compared to 100 in Germany. Europe needs to ban these lion hunting trophies altogether.”
Zimbabwean authorities say they are closely watching the country’s taxidermy shops. Because protected state parks are often surrounded by private safaris in the country, big game animals are often lured onto private property by hunters, guides, and poachers.
An estimated 40 million Americans hunt and fish every year, but an unknown minority also travel to African nations to hunt big game animals. Ironically, such trips can help fund protected wildlife areas and conservation efforts.
In 2014, a teenage girl from Texas also sparked outrage from animal rights activists and social media users around the world. Photos of the braces-wearing, blonde teenager on hunting trips posing with animals like lions, hippos, and leopards went viral, making her a target of online abuse and outrage. For her part, the teen said many of the animals had only been tranquilized as part of conservation efforts. However, the killing of Cecil the Lion is a clear case of illegal poaching, according to Zimbabwe officials.